Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WWRW The Happy Orphelines

While looking over books for our fall reading, Ceci  asked if there was a good  book series that we could read this week while she wasn't feeling well, and wanted to spend lots of time on the couch together. 

I asked if she remembered Josine. "Our cat?" Yes, but who her namesake was? (as well as our other cats: Toulouse, Brigitte and Bernadette). Since she didn't remember, I though it was a good time to pull out series of The Happy Orphelines by Natalie Savage Carlson. 

The outskirts of Paris post WWII era lived the largest family in France, twenty orphelines who lived with their loving guardians, Madame Flattot and Genevieve  under the care of their "mother' France. The young girls get into various troublesome adventures, some a little scary, all with happy endings. They had strong desire not to be adopted so they can stay with their orpheline sisters and beloved Madam Flattot. Charming stories of family and love.

The stories are sweet and delightful for young children, especially good for ages eight to ten, with adventures in each story. Carlson realistically captures how little children behave with lots of love shared between the girls. Good snuggle on the couch time together. We are old friends of the poor little orphelines, "Mom, you know they are happy little orphelines." Yes, we do think they are, the story inspires discussions about judging others, and how they were judged. My girls have so much fun listening and wanting to participate in the fun of the story, that I have to get firm and tell them no more interruptions until I finish the chapter, or  at least, the page. (I do love a story that gets a child enthusiastic). We launch into many other conversations as we read through the stories, about getting lost, being generous and assuming things about others lives. Some French words and customs and the fact they are Catholic are woven through the story of their lives.

As the series goes along their lives change, they move out of the decaying orphanage to an old castle in the country when they are joined with the troublesome boy orphans and have more adventures.

The illustrations in the first two books are done by Garth Williams (Little House fame) and are warm and inviting. 

Nicholas thought the stories were much like Madeline books: French orphans, girls... my girls didn't agree with him. We discussed similarities and differences and that it is okay to love both! My girls felt like they got to know the orphelines better as individual persons. There is much more to the Orpheline stories and written for a little older audience than Madeliene. Holding on to favorites and having attachments to books, authors and specific characters is a good thing. 

The Happy Orphelines make us happy. It's been a perfect read-together for my resting eight year old. The books are out of print, so hopefully you can find at your library or keep on your list for library sales. They do not have to be read in order.

The series was written in 1957-1964, last one published in 1980.
The Happy Orpheline
A Brother for the Orphelines
A Pet for the Orphelines
The Orphelines in the Enchanted Castle
A Grandmother for the Orphelines


  1. This looks like a fantastic find, thanks for sharing!

  2. Oh, wow! I guess my love of Little House/Garth Williams made me fall in love with your photo. I've never heard of these, so thank you for sharing. Adding them to my library list now. :)

  3. Love the graphics - looks like a great series to add to my 8 y/o's reading list - thanks!